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What to Know About the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. She is known for her advocacy regarding human rights, specifically regarding women and children’s education.

Malala grew up in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is in northwestern Pakistan. At the time, the local Taliban had banned all girls from going to school. In 2012, while on a bus, Malala was shot by the Taliban in an attempted assassination due to her activism. She was hit in the head and was in critical condition in the UK until her recovery. 

While she recovered, she founded the Malala Fund, which has the mission to secure “12 years of free, safe, quality education” for young women around the world. Her efforts amounted to being the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. 

Only 64% of Pakistani women were in school in 2018, according to the World Bank. Introduced in 2019, The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act (H.R. 4508) would ensure that over 50% of USAID scholarships are given exclusively to women in Pakistan. 

The bill was first brought to the House of Representatives by Rep. Jeffries (D-NY) and Rep. Wagner (R-MO) in September of 2019. The purpose of the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act is to provide more scholarships to Pakistani women under the USAID Merit and Need-Based Scholarship Program (MNBSP).

USAID has helped to advance female education. In the past twenty years, it has awarded Pakistani women funding for higher education. That being said, there is still a need for more funding to help alleviate the lack of Pakistani women given equal access to education.  

The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act would require that 50% of the MNBSP scholarships available, or more, from 2020 to 2022 be awarded to women. Specifically, the Act states

  1. every individual should have the opportunity to pursue a full cycle of primary, secondary, and higher education
  2. every individual, regardless of gender, should have the opportunity to pursue an education without fear of discrimination

In December 2019, the Foreign Affairs Committee voted to report to the chamber that the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act be considered in full, which only happens for about one in every four bills. To be enacted, the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act must pass the House, pass the Senate, and then be signed into law by the President of the United States.

Beyond just providing educational opportunities for these Pakistani women, the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act would strengthen the economy, improve the quality of life quality, and generally help to stabilize communities in the projected aid areas of Pakistan. If every girl around the globe received 12 years of education, the earnings of women would increase by $15 trillion, according to the Malala Fund webpage.

The long term effects of the House and Senate passing this bill are much more than increasing education for Pakistani women, though that is the priority of the bill. Improved quality of life, increased stabilization, and lessening of poverty would greatly help the entire country of Pakistan.

Featured Image by Southbank Centre on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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